Senate votes to roll back EPA emissions standard on heavy trucks

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Updated Apr 28, 2023

The U.S. Senate narrowly voted Wednesday to overturn Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules to slash emissions from heavy-duty trucks. The rollback faces an uphill climb as President Joe Biden is certain to veto it should it progress. 

The measure passed by the narrowest of margins (50-49), with West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin crossing the aisle to negate the standards set by the EPA in December. The House of Representatives has not voted on the bill and would need to pass it in order to reverse the recently finalized rule, where it would then face a probable White House veto. 

[Related: What do OEMs think of EPA's new emission regs?]

EPA's updated emission standards for heavy-duty commercial vehicles for the 2027 model year tightened tailpipe NOx limits to a level 80%-plus below the current standard and reducing the particulate matter limit by 50% and require heavy-duty commercial vehicles to limit nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to 0.035 grams per horsepower-hour during normal operation, 0.050 grams at low load, and 10.0 grams at idle. It also increases the useful life of governed vehicles by 1.5 to 2.5 times and yield emissions warranties that are 2.8 to 4.5 times longer – provisions that guarantee that as vehicles age, they will continue to meet EPA’s more stringent emissions standards for a longer period of time.

Lawmakers and trucking groups have argued that EPA's onerous regulations would make trucks more expensive, thus slowing down fleet renewal cycles and effectively keeping older and less efficient trucks on the road longer. 

[Related: Current emissions regs simply hope for an unlikely best]

Now is indeed a confusing time to be in trucking with regard to tailpipe emissions. 

EPA announced in a Federal Register notice earlier this month that it will host a public hearing on its latest proposed emissions regulations on heavy-duty trucks. A two-day virtual public hearing is set for May 2-3 on EPA’s proposal titled, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles – Phase 3.” An additional session may be held on May 4 if necessary to accommodate more testifiers, the agency noted.

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The Biden administration last month cleared the way for California to require that half of all heavy trucks sold in the state be fully electric by 2035, and the state becomes the world’s first government to require zero-emission trucks. California needed approval from the White House because its rule exceeds Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirements.